McKinley High School

Honolulu public high school that the majority of Nisei in Hawai'i attended in the 1920s and 1930s; often referred to as "Tokyo High," it was credited with Americanizing young Japanese Americans.

In 1865, Maurice B. Beckwith established the Fort Street English Day School in the basement of the old Fort Street Church. In November 1869, it moved to a new stone building on the corner of Fort and School Streets. The Fort Street School later moved to the Princess Ruth's Palace in 1895 and was renamed Honolulu High School. In 1907, it moved to the corner of Beretania and Victoria streets and renamed President William McKinley High School. To meet the needs of growing enrollment, the school was moved to its current location in 1923. The majority of Nisei in Hawai'i at the time attended public schools and as O'ahu's only public high school, it was often called "Tokyo High." [1]

In 1924, Miles E. Cary was appointed as principal and seven years later he introduced Core Studies, replacing vocational training with a core curriculum that emphasized citizenship, leadership, and critical thinking. [2] During this time, students were influenced by two ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence: "That all men are created equal in the sight of God and are entitled to an equal opportunity to make the most of their talents; and that when the existing social order is inimical to equal opportunity, the system should be overturned." [3] As a result of the acculturation and Americanization of the second generation, during World War II, the student body, comprise largely of Nisei, conducted a savings bond drive that raised over $200,000. Another fundraising effort resulted in the purchase of over $350,000 in war bonds for a Liberator bomber named "Madame Pele" that students presented to the U.S. Air Force in February 1944. [4]

Distinguished alumni include Senator Daniel K. Inouye , Governor George Ariyoshi , University of Hawai'i President Dr. Fujio Matsuda, and Hawai'i Supreme Court Justices Bert Kobayashi Sr., Wilfred Tsukiyama, and Masaji Marumoto . Currently, McKinley enrolls over 1,700 students annually and the majority of the student body is of Asian/Pacific Islander ancestry. [5] Japanese Americans are only one of many ethnic groups, however, that comprise the student body.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura , University of Hawai'i

For More Information

Fuchs, Lawrence H. Hawaii Pono: A Social History . New York: Hardcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1961.

Santoki, Mark M. "Iwao Mizuta: Reflections on the McKinley Class of '34 and the Legacy of Miles Cary." Hawaii Herald , November 1, 1991, p. 1.

Williams, Shirley JoAnn. "The Educational Theory and Philosophy of Education of Miles Elwood Cary: Implications for Democracy in a Global Civic Culture." Ed.D. diss, Northern Illinois University, 1991.


  1. Lawrence H. Fuchs, Hawaii Pono: A Social History (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.), 129.
  2. Mark K. Santoki, "Iwao Mizuta: Reflection on the McKinley Class of '34 and the Legacy of Miles Cary," Hawaii Herald , November 1, 1991, p. 1.
  3. Fuchs, Hawaii Pono," 129.
  4. See photograph HWRD 1368, Hawaii War Records Depository Photos, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, .
  5. National Center for Education Statistics, .

Last updated April 17, 2024, 5:02 a.m..